Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Thursday, October 25, 2007

InterSections 07: 1 - Innovation at the intersections of disciplines and culture

Hopefully the first of some live blogs (though published after session) from the InterSections conference. And apologies in advance for the no doubt ropey typing, spelling and grammar that will follow.

First, introductory remarks from Kel Fidler, David Kester and Jeremy Myerson:

KF:

- "Studios are now longer filled with drawing boards" (why ever not?),

- 'Design is changing in a world of transition' is the thought underpinning the conference. "We're dealing with a new, more integrated landscape of design for living," says Fidler.

- One key question: How can design be deployed to support economic regeneration?

DK:

- We don't fully understand the implications yet (of the globalised world) on the practice of design.

- Embedding design thinking at a policy level for innovation, competitiveness, education.

- "Your presence here helps to contiribute to the wider public understanding of design."

JM:

- High expectations for this conference. A watershed moment - where do we go next?

- A lunchbox at lunch, to enabling wandering round Dott.

---

Notes from the innovation talk by Frans Johnansson, author of The Medici Effect

- Where do we go to find ideas?

- Created Catalyst magazine, link together different strands of scientific thinking

- Combining ideas, disciplines, cultures leads to new ideas - is this a general rule for innovation?

- Word association games, much high US-style energy, audience interactivity

- Groundbreaking ideas come from the intersections of different industries and cultures

- 26: number of minutes for a new foreign-owned factory to open in China

- Avg number of years a company used to last on the S&P index, used to be 25-35 years - now 10-15.

- The more successful an organisation becomes, the harder it becomes to remain innovative

- Sony should be the portable music company - but Apple is

- The most gloabl business theme: where and how do I innovate?

- ...and no education really services this need

- Groundbreaking ideas are found at the intersections / diversity drives innovation

- Learning from termite ecology to build office buildings in Harare

- Stepping into intersections = The Medici Effect. The family sponsored creative individuals across Europe, across disciplines

- Why is this approach so successful?
1) All new ideas are combinations of existing ideas. But has to have more than a 'so what?' effect. The two ideas need to be far apart. A team needs to have diverse persepctives, so the ideas they bring are further apart, eg Islamic swimwear.
2) Innovative teams generate and execute more ideas. Eg Corning create over 4,000 products a year, Richard Branson has started over 350 companies. We're not good at predicting what is going to work. And we find more ideas at the intersections.

(Will the future soley be owned by mobile, gloablised individuals with a cross-cultural perspective?)

- Mike Oldfield's 'Tubular Bells' is proving something... just not sure what yet.

- 'New ideas in rock music' has been reduced to about 2,400 artistic combinations? (Art isn't produced in this way!)

- At the intersection, number of ideas grows exponentially

- Nike and Hummer work together: tyre tracks look like soles of sneakers

- Better ideas, and more of them, at the intersection

- As individuals:
1) Search purposefully for connections from other cultures and disciplines - and dare to explore them. Don't be scared of the word: 'Innovation' doesn't mean having to be on the cutting edge. What's in your network? And what can you combine it with from elsewhere? Curiosity is key. Plus you need a room where you can throw up ideas, and none of them is wrong. 'What if...?' is a key question as well.

('To intersect' is going to be a heavily used and abused verb)

2) Staff for innovation: Easier to get inspired if you are surrounded by difference. Diversify the pools that you draw your talent from. Maybelline became the no 1 cosmetic brand in the world through creating diverse teams: combine experiences, approaches, concepts, traditions, and country backgrounds. (But also need to have local knowledge and consumer insight.) A tiny design change, eg a curved mascara brush, can drive success.

3) Leverage existing diversity: eg Volvo's concept car, designed by an all-female team. Features include no need to open the bonnet, to replace washer fluid. Needs different perspectives to see the obvious.

4) Allow for experimentation

5) Plan for experimentation: iterations mean that idea and realisations of the idea have changed. Some assumptions will be wrong, and need to adapt to that. Eg unexpected customer segments can be found and exploited.

6) Think differently about risk: There are difficulties - Murphy's Law, for example. The inherent riskiness of an idea means that you will change your behaviour around that idea. Apple spent half a billion dollars on developing the Newton. (Yikes.) Risks of failure do not change significantly depending on how much money you have. 'Go for the idea.'

10) Look for connections in unexpected places. Riskier not to step into the intersections.

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